Eagle approves Abrams Creek connector open space bike and pedestrian trail | VailDaily.com

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Eagle approves Abrams Creek connector open space bike and pedestrian trail

This map from the town of Eagle shows the approximate route of the new Abrams Creek Connector Trail (blue meandering line toward the bottom of the map), located nearly one-half mile from residences along Hernage Creek Road.

EAGLE — Five years after it was a hot topic in Eagle, mountain bikers will soon have a new trail to connect the Third Gulch and Abrams Gulch areas.

This week, the Eagle Town Board approved both a change in the allowed uses for the Hernage Gulch area and a nearly $60,000 expenditure to build the new trail.

The new Abrams Creek Open Space Trail is a 3.5-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail through the Abrams Creek open space parcel, purchased by the town last year. The trail route will be located nearly one-half mile south of the Hernage Creek Road, and it differs significantly from a connector trail proposed in 2012 that drew heated opposition from residents of the Hernage Gulch area.

Previously Nixed trail

“Every trail is going to have an impact. It is always a balance between recreation and wildlife.”John StraightOpen space coordinator, Eagle

In 2012, the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition proposed a 2.65-mile-long trail route accessed at the second cattle guard located on Third Gulch. That trail would have ended at Hernage Creek Road.

That proposal came under fire because the Eagle Travel Management plan specifies: "Pedestrian or foot travel is the only allowable public use in Hernage Gulch."

When the original trail was proposed, neighbors of the area maintained they bought their lots with the assurance that the area would remain a "pristine" wildlife area without a recreation focus. Ultimately, the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission agreed with the neighbors and nixed the Hernage Connector Trail.

In his presentation of the Abrams Creek Connector Trail, Eagle Open Space Coordinator John Staight said he worked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to design a route that would minimize impacts and contacted 51 residents who live along Hernage Creek Road to inform them about the plan.

Finding balance

"Every trail is going to have an impact," Staight said. "It is always a balance between recreation and wildlife."

Likewise, there is a balance between recreationalists who want to access an area and the people who live nearby.

"This revised plan avoids a lot of the problems we had with our previous alignment," said Hardscrabble Trails Coalition member Adam Palmer during the town's discussion this week.

During the Tuesday discussion, the supporters came out in force to lobby for the new trail.

"This is a much-needed connector," said Eagle resident Charlie Brown.

"The more we spread out, the less populated each trail becomes," said resident Dan Lambert.

Resident Tim Post voiced concerns about wildlife impacts with the new connector.

Town board member Scott Turnipseed noted that wildlife impact was one of the main reasons why the town rejected the previous trail proposal and moved forward with the Abrams Creek open space purchase. By bringing the parcel into the town's open space holdings, Eagle could make a less-impactful alignment happen.

"There is a mindset of trying to offset some of the wildlife impacts," Turnipseed said.

The new connector road will be subject to the same seasonal wildlife closures — effective Dec. 15 through April 15 annually — that are imposed on other Eagle open space parcels. Additionally, the approved changes to the town's travel-management plan continue to define the Hernage Gulch area as a pedestrian-only use.

The change approved this week states: "Pedestrian or foot travel is the only allowable public use in Hernage Gulch (including on the existing Hernage Creek Trail), with the exception of the trail connecting Third Gulch to Abrams Gulch, which is open to pedestrian and bicycle use."

Momentum selected

After approving the trail option, the Eagle Town Board designated Momentum Trail Concepts to build the connector.

Momentum's bid for the project was $58,990, and the scope of work will include a dirt trail approximately 3.5 miles long and approximately 24 inches wide. The trail would require the construction of three bridges: one 60-foot bridge crossing Abrams Creek, one 10-foot bridge crossing Hernage Creek and one 10-foot bridge crossing an abandoned ranching ditch.

Trail construction is slated to begin this spring.